Mist

Mist

Mist

This painting recounts that brief period as the sun rises above the layer of mist, soon to be burnt away without leaving a trace.

The painting lacks the depth of shadow I would normally apply in the early stages of painting. I used quite a lot of solvent in the mid distance and foreground. This is a bit like watercolour painting but the solvent evaporates much quicker than water. The structure of the scene was created by ‘drawing’ with a fine brush, these details to be later covered by ‘mist’, applied by dragging white over with a wide flat brush. This gave the softness and appearance of mist. The initial ‘drawing’ helped in the placing of the ‘mist’. Without these details I would probably have lost my way.

Mist is much more picturesque than fog. It hangs in low lying areas and is not a uniform blanket like fog. This of course allowed me to have a contrasting solid foreground giving a greater depth in the scene.

This small painting (12″x9″) was completed in under an hour and a half. There are 3 colours used, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber and Cerulean Blue. The details I mentioned earlier were painted with an inexpensive nylon ‘liner’, a long bristled brush used by sign writers. The rest of the painting was done with a single No.12 filbert hog-hair. You will notice I don’t clean this single brush during the painting session. I occasionally wipe off excess on a tissue, but not a full clean with solvent. Having a limited palette of 3 colours makes this work. Also I try and have the colour mixes ‘evolve’ from one into the next. So the colour on the brush contributes partially to the next colour required.

Here’s the video, see you soon.

 

January

January

January

Variability in our weather, here in Ireland, is probably responsible for the unique appearance of our landscape. A week or two ago we had minus degrees Celsius and snow-like frost plus a North wind, to chill us even further. Last week the temperature was a muggy 15 Celsius. This is a Summertime temperature! But not unusual for Ireland.

This changeability of temperature, in the 0 to 4 degrees range, is responsible for intense weathering. Many years ago I worked as a science technician responsible for recording the effects of this weathering on building products. The most severe damage is caused by a ‘freeze thaw’ cycle. Our colleagues in Scandinavia thought they had it bad with a few dozen cycles per year. We were counting 200-400 per winter in the early 1980’s. Nothing lasts for very long when exposed to this for a few years, and it shows in the landscape.

Ironically, within this landscape there are places, like boglands (Winter Bogland), where beneath a layer of peat, perishable items like butter, leather, wood and even bodies are perfectly preserved for thousands of years.

This painting is about the dark, damp days of this past week. Dressed for winter and trying to keep dry, against driving rain is an almost claustrophobic experience. No clean blues and purples here, as in recent paintings. The colours I used in the overall were a combination of Olive Green and Raw Umber. The combination is like a Sepia colour seen in pen and wash sketches and I stayed with this sketchy look throughout the painting.

The sky was also a sketchy effort. I painted it with John Constable’s cloud study sketches in mind.

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The colours used were Raw Sienna, Olive Green, Raw Umber, Cerulean Blue, plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits. The painting is 12″x9″ and was painted with a single No. 12 filbert bristle and a small nylon liner. Painting time was a little over an hour in a single session.

Here’s the video of the painting.

Advent

Advent

Advent

Advent, a time of expectant waiting and preparation. And so it is. The little ones have no problem preparing for the celebration of the Nativity, its the arrival of Santa Clause which causes most concern. One grandchild could not understand why Santa came down the chimney to deliver their gifts, and why he does not use the door like everybody else. The mystery and suspense makes it a magical time, especially for children.

I’m reminded of the poem, Advent, by Patrick Kavanagh where he writes about adults loosing something by thinking they know everything.
“We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child’s soul, we’ll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.”

Appropriately the colour which dominates this painting is purple, a colour I started to use a few months back. Like green, its a secondary colour made by mixing 2 primaries, yellow and blue for green, red and blue for purple. My usual colour scheme is 3 primaries (yellow, red, blue) and 1 secondary. For me, red includes Umbers, Burnt Sienna as well as the obvious reds like Cadmium Red and Alizarin Crimson. In fact, the range representing each of my primaries is very broad but I think the 3 primaries should be present in some form to produce the widest range of colours and help the ‘natural’ look of a landscape. Because the resultant secondaries are sometimes not the expected colour (here Burnt Sienna (red) and Ultramarine (blue) does not produce a strong purple) I used a ‘tube’ purple.

The colours used here were Raw Sienna (yellow), Burnt Sienna (red), Ultramarine (blue) plus Dioxaline Purple. Black and white are also used but not considered as colours.

The painting is 12″x9″ and was painted with a single long bristle filbert and a very fine nylon for thin lines. I also used a painting knife for really thin lines. I used only solvent, no medium, and the painting was completed in a single 2 hour session.

Here’ the video of the painting process.

December

December

December

We have not had snow, yet, but these frosty foggy days, for a few hours each day, leave a carpet of white, glowing until its burnt away by the midday sun.

I liked the contrast between the dark ragged spiky hawthorn tree and the blanket of soft white frost. As you will see in the video, I used a painting knife to draw the fine branches of the tree. No brush, regardless of how small, could achieve the sharpness of these lines on such a small painting (12″x9″).

A painting knife is specifically designed, like a builder’s trowel, to allow paint be applied without your fingers touching the surface of the painting. A palette knife is usually flat and difficult to use as a painting tool. The only time I use a painting knife is when I need a fine line, either by painting as above or scratching into the wet paint.

This painting has the same colours as the previous one i.e. Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Dioxazine Purple, Cerulean Blue plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits.

Here’s the video of the painting process which took just under 2 hours. Excuse the slightly ‘dodgy’ clip of the painting of the river..No, I was not using 2 brushes at the same time – SD card problems while recording!

First Frost

First Frost

First Frost

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas with heavy white frosts, the first we’ve seen this winter. The farm animals, by now, are all housed and there is very little agricultural activity on the land.

Dioxazine Purple is the underlying colour and this gives a coolness in keeping with the subject. The blue is Cerulean, a warm soft colour. The purple was used to darken the blue at the top of the sky. It was also used in the distance to add atmosphere.

When I painted the foreground, I left as much purple under-colour as possible. The green in this area is a very subtle shade produced by adding a little blue to raw sienna. This was a rich mid tone and when pure white was added to represent the frost it produced nice highlights of green.

The 4 colours used were: Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Dioxazine Purple, Cerulean Blue plus black and white. There was no medium used, only White Spirits.

Here’s the video of the process, which took about an hour and a half. The painting is 12″ x 9″. See you soon.

Shanrath

Shanrath

Shanrath

Dotted across the landscape of Ireland are ‘Raths’, circular forts of ditch and bank construction. There is divided opinions as to their function. There has not been enough archaeological investigation to establish exactly why they were built. Were they defensive fortified homesteads, cattle enclosures, ceremonial areas? Many have survived agricultural destruction because of superstition. They were sometimes called ‘fairy raths’ and woe betide anyone who disturbed the homes of the ‘little people’. The rath which was here, survived up to the ’60’s when it was obliterated from the landscape by a local farmer. Nothing now remains except the name of the area, Shanrath, which in English translates as old fort. I remember it well. We often played here as children but never after nightfall.

I saw this unusual cloud formation one evening recently. Natural phenomena always look odd in paintings, but never in photographs, so I had to make it as ‘normal’ as possible. Part of this process involved putting green into the sky. This would bind the sky to the green landscape to remove any possible disconnect of this unusual sky.

The composition is also unusual. The cottage is placed dead centre with the red cloud and the road appearing to rotate anti-clockwise around this centre.

I used 4 colours, Yellow Ochre, Olive Green, Cadmium Red and Cobalt Blue plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits. The painting is 10″ x 8″ and was painted in about an hour.

Here’s the video of the painting process.

November

November

November

Across the flat midlands of Ireland you will come across small hills and ridges called drumlins, a legacy of the ice age, created by the melt waters as the glaciers advanced and retreated over hundreds of thousands of years. Many have been quarried for their sand and gravel deposits but here and there a few have survived. Like this little hill they add interest to an otherwise featureless landscape.

This is a small painting, measuring 10″x8″ and was painted in about one hour. I usually paint on loose un-stretched canvas which I later laminate onto a rigid board for framing. This was painted on a canvas textured oil painting paper which was sold as a surface for oil or acrylic painting. I found it too absorbent for oils and the colours deadened when the oil in the paint soaked into the paper. So I applied a thin layer of rabbit skin glue size to both sides, letting the first dry before coating the second side. This reduced the absorption and the colours remained vibrant until dry. Applying rabbit skin glue size is an ancient method of ‘sizing’ a surface prior to oil painting. It was found to resist the effects of dampness better than other organic materials, an important consideration in this part of the world.

I know there are modern synthetic equivalents, like ‘polybond’, which are probably as good or better but it takes a few years to see if they work as well, so I’ll stick to the traditional material until further notice. I use the modern material to laminate the canvas or paper onto a board as it does not come in contact with the paint layer. If it fails the worst that can happen is the canvas or paper detaches from the board and not the paint layer detaching from the surface. The modern material usually has a fungicide added and this prevents mildew and fungus from developing in damp conditions.

The colours used are Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, Raw Umber, Cobalt Blue plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits.

Here’s the video, see you soon.